20 breathtaking lakes

written by Olivia Rawes
updated 5/27/2021
fb tw mail_outline

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Encircled by verdant wooded hills that teem with wildlife, water tumbles down through the chain of terraced pools, waterfalls and cascades that make up the Edenic landscape of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Built up over thousands of years, natural barriers of travertine separate the sixteen cool, flat, turquoise lakes and provide dams for the rushing water to plunge over.

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

High in the thin air of Bolivia’s altiplano stands Laguna Colorada, a shallow stretch of brick-red water flanked by rolling mountains and fringed with crumbling mineral deposits. Dyed with red algae and speckled with white borax islets, this bizarre landscape is a favourite breeding ground for a rare colony of James’s flamingos that pepper its flat expanse.

Crater Lakes in the Albertine Rift, Uganda

Beautifully scarring the earth, deep explosion craters pockmark the rich grasslands of Uganda’s Rift floor. Belying their violent births, these depressions now form grassy amphitheatres, calm lakes and small, tranquil pools. Farmed for its salt, the shorelines of Lake Katwe are divided into small plots of saline water creating an earthy mosaic of rusty brown, burgundy and saffron pools.

Dal Lake, India

The jewel in Srinagar’s crown is not just ornamental. Its glassy, reflective waters bustle with colour and life. Brightly painted shikaras, some laden with flowers, skim the surface, tending to floating gardens and weaving their way to and from floating markets. Lavish gardens decorate the shoreline, while ornately carved Kashmiri houseboats bob amongst surface reflections of Pir Panjal’s mountain peaks.

continued below

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

A land famous for its stunning natural beauty, New Zealand is somewhat spoilt for choice when it comes to magnificent scenery. However, South Island’s Lake Tekapo is certainly worthy of note. Flanked by rolling hills, its dazzling turquoise waters lap against a shore that between mid-November and January is ablaze with a purple sea of wild lupins.

Lake Baikal, Russia

Siberia’s ancient Lake Baikal is the deepest in the world, holding nearly one-fifth of the Earth’s unfrozen fresh water. Shielded by dense forests and mountain steppes, in winter months its scenery is transformed into a vast sheet of immaculate, magical whiteness when, despite its immense depths, the icy freeze over the lake is strong enough for cars to drive across.

Lake Malawi, Malawi

A majestic expanse of mirror-like, serene waters, “the lake of stars” stretches from land-locked Malawi into Mozambique and Tanzania. Below its sleek surface, Lake Malawi’s warm waters are teeming with around 500 species of fish, including a dazzling rainbow of cichlids, while its gentle shoreline is punctuated with white, sandy bays, veiled coves and sleepy fishing villages.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

With such fairytale vistas, it’s unsurprising that Bled is Slovenia’s most popular destination. Amidst the placid, sparkling waters of the lake stands a tiny, forested island complete with a little seventeenth-century church. A backdrop of snow-tipped alpine mountains fringes the waters, while Bled Castle stands precariously perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the lake.

Heaven Lake, China & North Korea

Poised atop a volcanic mountain that straddles the Chinese-North Korean border, the serene waters of Heaven Lake form a perfectly blue mirror reflecting the sky. At an altitude of 2,194 metres, the lake is dramatically set amongst windswept, rocky outcrops and exposed mountainous peaks. Breathtakingly beautiful and cloaked in myth and legend, these ancient waters date back two million years.

Loch Awe, Scotland

Staged amongst rolling hillsides cloaked in heather and sprinkled with ancient pines, Loch Awe is not only one of the longest lochs in Scotland but undoubtedly one of the most scenic. While its surroundings are scattered with ruined castles, there is an arresting beauty in the crumbling shell of fifteenth-century Kilchuirn Castle that stands proudly at the water’s edge.

Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Thick with a shifting blanket of pink, Lake Nakuru is famous for its dizzying spectacle of thousands of flamingos crowding its warm, alkaline waters. While the soda lake’s abundance of algae draws these surreal masses, flamingos are not alone here: hippos wallow in the shallow waters, while the light woodland is alive with waterbuck, buffaloes and black and white rhino.

Caspian Sea

Bordered by Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth reaches from Eastern Europe into Western Asia. Misnamed a sea due to its sheer size, the status of this vast salt-water lake has become a hotly debated subject after the discovery of hugely valuable oil and natural gas deposits below its surface.

Crater Lake, USA

A sapphire jewel set in a deep caldera in the dormant Mount Mazama volcano, Crater Lake owes its famous water clarity to falling rain and snow. Offering truly spectacular vistas, the lake’s edges are encircled with sheer cliffs that stretch 2,000 feet skyward and framed with towering evergreens, while at its centre Wizard Island stands poised in its deep waters.

Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia

Stretching along the horizon the world’s largest high-altitude lake looks like a shard of deep-blue crystal water spreading across the roof of the world. More than 70 islands are scattered across its huge expanse; amongst these the sacred Isla del Sol sits in the Bolivian part, while at the Peruvian end float the man-made reed Uros Islands.

Taal Lake, The Philippines

Dangerous yet beautiful, the awe-inspiring Lake Taal nestles in a huge prehistoric crater that stands just south of Manila. At the lake’s centre, the extremely active Taal Volcano projects from its indigo waters. While a few tourists risk a trek on the precarious Volcano Island, many choose to enjoy the epic vistas from the relative safety of nearby Tagaytay.

On the 12th January 2020 the Taal Volcano on Luzon island erupted. Residents have been evacuated and Manila airport is currently closed. You can find the latest UK government advice on travel to the region here.

Maligne Lake, Canada

When gazing upon the perfect tranquillity of Lake Maligne its name, which comes from the French for “wicked”, seems rather a misnomer. The largest lake in the Canadian Rockies, these dazzling glacial waters are hemmed in by snow-capped peaks and three majestic glaciers, while a stately forest of lodgepole pine and spruce, which offer perfect hiking, lines its peaceful banks.

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Snaking through a rural landscape of intricately terraced hillsides, little villages and secluded bays, and peppered with 29 lush islands, Lake Bunyonyi is one of Africa’s most beautiful lakes. Situated near the town of Kabale, these mystical depths are the perfect place to rest after days rambling through the country’s mountainous gorilla parks.

Jellyfish Lake, Palau

In the teal-coloured waters of Jellyfish Lake, an undulating mass of golden jellyfish gradually chase the arc of the sunlight. Unique to the golden jellyfish, this rhythmic, pulsating daily sun migration is vital to nourishing the algae-like organisms that live off their tissues and has been developed after thousands of years of being trapped in this isolated pocket of seawater.

Lake Como, Italy

The peaceful, forked waters of charming Lake Como have long drawn a varied mix of aristocrats, poets and tourists. Snow-covered Alps loom around its edges, while the pretty shoreline weaves its way through slopes covered in rich vegetation and dotted with ochre towns and villages themselves scattered with belle époque houses and clusters of Neoclassical villas.

Mono Lake, USA

Sculpted by the elements, the strange, ornate towers of tufa that rise from the shallow, rippling waters of Mono Lake create a surreal landscape. Otherworldly perhaps, but despite being called “the loneliest place on earth”, the lake is far from deserted; spanning California’s arid Great Basin, these salty, alkaline waters are a popular stopover point for millions of migratory birds.

author photo
written by Olivia Rawes
updated 5/27/2021
fb tw mail_outline

Planning on your own? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to discover
tailor-made travel?
Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels